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MAKING A MARK: Black Diamond Weekend helps small businesses during COVID-19

Some small businesses are in survival mode during the pandemic, but Black BRAND is helping entrepreneurs weather the crisis during Black Diamond Weekend.

NORFOLK, Va. — Small businesses have been grappling with economic disruption for months due to the pandemic. But help may be on the way over the course of one weekend.

Blair Durham is president and co-founder of Black BRAND (Business, Research, Analytics, Networking, and Development). The nonprofit supports local entrepreneurs. 

"It doesn't matter whether they've just had an idea to start a business, or whether they've been in business for 15 years and they're ready to franchise their model. We have experts," Durham said.

During the weekend after Thanksgiving, the group is hosting its third annual Black Diamond Weekend -- a development conference bringing small and minority-owned businesses together at a crucial time. 

"It's not gonna be about Amazon and getting the best deals," Durham explained. "It's gonna be about surrounding [your]self with other business owners and getting in front of experts and getting what [you] need."

Like many events during the pandemic, the conference will be virtual. But Durham said much of the experience from previous years will remain the same. Among other activities, there will be a digital wine tasting, VIP party, karaoke bar, and fashion show in partnership with the Virginia Zoo. 

"We got some amazing elements in terms of inspiration and entertainment, and even celebration," Durham said. "Those key moments that Black Diamond Weekend-goers are used to experiencing are still there, even in the digital space."

The theme for this year's conference is 'Sparkle. Fire. Brilliance.' Durham hopes it encourages business owners to keep shining during a dark time. 

"They're gonna walk away with new resources and the information that they need to walk into 2021 with so much more strength and vitality," Durham noted.

Black Diamond Weekend is Friday, Nov. 27 through Sunday, Nov. 29. Some of the weekend's events are free and open to the public, while others require a ticket purchase. 

To learn more, click here. To view the full event schedule, click here

To learn more about Black BRAND, visit their website, or check out the group on Facebook.